Thursday, July 29, 2010

Peggy Kerry's Allergic Reation to Peace

From December 10, 2006, that's "Peggy Kerry's Allergic Reaction to Peace."

And I think we should have realized right then that the newly elected (in Nov. 2006) Dem majority was meaningless and that the wars would continue.

That was my second Cindy Sheehan cartoon. I wish there were more. (There are more referencing Crawford but this is only the second time she appeared in the comic panel.)

Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Thursday, July 29, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, the political stalemate continues, the Congress explores the education and employment processes for veterans, Spain puts out warrants for three US service members, and more.

"I am glad to see we are joined by representatives from the Department of Defense which is responsible for training our men and women in uniform to meet the demands of their respective military career," declared US House Rep Stephanie Herseth Sandlin this afternoon bringing to order the House Veterans Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity. "I am also glad to see the Departments of Veterans Affairs and Labor who both oversee these unique benefits and programs that may help our nation's veterans gain meaningful employment after their military service." She explained that the Subcomittee was continuing their work on the issue of the unemployment rate for veterans (21.6% in 2009). Stephanie Herseth Sandlin is the Chair of the Subcommittee, US House Rep Gus Bilirakis is the Ranking Member. In his opening remarks, Bilrakis noted, "Too often our men and women are required to repeat education already gained in military service. To me, that means that states need to be more flexible in recognizing military training and skills. I'm disappointed that the National Governor's Associated declined once again to join us here today. To me, the states hold the key to solving this dilemma."

The first panel was composed of
Veterans of Foreign Wars' Eric Hillerman, the American Legion's Joseph C. Shapre Jr., the Blinded Veterans Association's Thomas Zampieri and Monster Worldwide's Vince Patton. We'll note this exchange from it.

Chair Stephanie Herseth Sandlin: From all of's transition career tools, which ones have been in the greatest demand by service members and veterans? Is it the mentor network?

Vince Patton: Yes, ma'am. The mentor network definitely is one of the best demand because what we have found is by not just having the technology itself, but our veterans would like to have somebody to connect with one another. And this is probably one of the successes of the internet as a whole, that people are connecting with one another. By using our veteran career network where the veterans are connecting and talking to each other, helping them with writing resumes, it's been very, very helpful.

Chair Stephanie Herseth Sandlin: For Mr. Hilleman and Mr. Shapre, you had both stated in your testimony -- I think one of the recommendations, Mr. Hilleman, was to fund a study of all MOSs [Military Occupational Specialty]. And Mr. Shapre you had stated that it would be helpful to have a system that could be devised to translate the full nature of a service members' skills and abilities. Do you think that having a study that would look at all MOSs and having a system designed in that way is -- would provide something that either currently isn't providing or is not capable of providing at this point?

Eric Hilleman: Um, Madame Chairwoman, currently ACE [American Council on Education] does study specific school houses and specific MOSs with the exception of the air force because the air force has their own junior college or community college within the air force. That gives transferrable credit for education. But the contract between DoD and ACE is at the request of DoD so it does not study every single MOSs or every single course, it's just what DoD is contracted with ACE to study. That and ACE currently only has partners with our credit reciprocity or credit acceptance of 30 -- excuse me, 2300 universities nation wide. So quite a few universities. But that -- The list is not fully encompassing so I think we'd like to see if we could improve that through the academic sphere.

Chair Stephanie Herseth Sandlin: Yes, so your focused on the study so that it would look at the transfer of credits into colleges and universities versus the career transition into direct employment.

Eric Hilleman: I think there needs to be a wall between two studies. The focus on what's going on with ACE and currently with DoD and then take a look at also -- and I think unfortunately this-this has to go on an industry-industry basis and state by state. The Army Nursing Program that we mentioned in our testimony. Nowhere on the sight does it say that Air Force, Navy or Coast Guard nurses are excepted from the same tests that the Army Nurses are expected to sit for. So there's high degrees of variances from state to state. And I think that is the largest challenge to developing some agreement where credits transfer the military into the private sector.

Chair Stephanie Herseth Sandlin: Mr. Shapre?

John Shapre: I agree with everything that Mr. Hilleman has stated but we also -- The other thing we're really focusing on is we would like to see a lot of this done prior to the person's transition out of the military.

Chair Stephanie Herseth Sandlin: Mm-hmm.

John Shapre: They should know exactly what their MOS training will allow them to do once they leave.

Chair Stephanie Herseth Sandlin: Well that raises another very important question on TAP. I know Secretary Jefferson's commited to reforming TAP. But I think Dr. Patton, you had some testimony as it relates to your perspective on how TAP doesn't always provide service members with what they need. I have had a mixed bag of responses from my constituents. Most recentlly two different members of 20-years plus of different branches of the armed forces who separated from military service. One thought TAP was fabulous, and the other thought it was completely useless. And they didn't take the program in the same place. Otherwise I would think we would have had more consistent response. What are your thoughts as it relates to TAP, any of you, how do we restructure this if necessary?

Vince Patton: Madame Chairwoman, I'll use my own personal experience when I went through TAP two years before I retired. I'm going through my TAP class and my needs are a little bit different than some of the other people that were sitting in that TAP class. Sitting next to me was a young man with three-years in the Coast Guard, a paygrade E4. He's got a total different focus on what's going to happen to him at the end of his time as what's going to happen to mine? I'm getting a retirement, my resume is a little bit more padded than his is. He's focused on trying to get into using education. So what happens in the TAP class is -- I have no problem with the content and I don't think anyone does. The problem is that it's not a one size fits all. But the system has kind of set that to be by virtue of getting everybody with different military walks of life into one setting and trying to come out with something of a commonality. What probably needs to happen, in my opinion, is more of looking at how we can reinforce that information before TAP, during TAP, as well as after TAP. So-so the whole TAP process is something that's evolving that should continue on well past the individual leaving the service.

Chair Stephanie Herseth Sandlin: Any other comments on TAP? I'm over time but I'm going to recognize the Ranking Member and come back for time. Any other comments on TAP?

John Sharpe: Well we know that the Dept of Labor is in the midst of redoing their entire TAP program. They're modernizing the program, something that we strongly agree with. A lot of the recommendations that are going into this new program is coming from the businesses that set on their veteran advisory board. A couple of years ago, we all went to a number of TAP programs across the country and looked to see how it could be improved. And a lot of the recommendations that came from various business owners -- we just -- we do think they're on the right road. We're still concerned with the fact that many service members are still not getting access to the TAP program.

The second panel was composed of the Dept of Labor's Assistant Secretary for Veterans Employment and Training Service's Raymond M. Jefferson, DoD's John Campbell accompanied by DoD's Ron Horne and the VA's Margarita Cocker. We'll note this exchange.

Chair Stephanie Herseth Sandlin: Now according to your written testimony and I think you touched on it just now as well, the VA provides certification preparation tests. Can you specify for which specialities and how you determine if the veterans eligible for participation in the preparation tests.

Margarita Cocker: Yes, ma'am. Preparation tests can be provided to any service member or veteran that requires it in order to be able to pass the exam. The process will involve the VRC -- the Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor -- sitting down with the veteran and preparing the rehabilitation plan including any preparation test that might be needed. Depending on the industry standard for those types of exams and whether a preparation exam is typically expected to help the individual pass, that could be a given in the rehabilitation plan that the preparation test would be written in. However, if during the progress of the plan -- If it had not been written into the plan, it can be added later if the veteran feels that they're not confident enough to pass the test without a preparation course.

Chair Stephanie Herseth: And then on average, how long would it take for a service member or veteran to complete a transferable skills assessment from the point where they go through the vocational exploration phase, then receive an individualized and comprehensive plan until they're employed in their chosen field? Do you have a rough average?

Margarita Cocker: I do not have an average. I can take that question for the record. However, what I can say is that that is very individualized and dependent upon the level of education that that veteran will need to complete to get to the point of licensing and certification if it's required for that occupation. The evaluation process, the comprehensive assessment which includes the transferable skills assessment is conducted during the initial phase and I can certainly provide average numbers for the evaluation and planning phase. I can take that question for the record.

Chair Stephanie Herseth: Okay, I appreciate that. And can you give any examples from different career fields where it's been particularly challenging to secure licensing or certification?

Margarita Cocker: I don't have any specific occupations where I can say it's been challenging to achieve that?

Chair Stephanie Herseth: Any states?

Margarita Cocker: I can take that for the record though and research it further.

Rick Maze (Air Force Times) covered yesterday's House Veterans Committee hearing and is probably at the largest news outlet that did cover the hearing. It's rather surprising -- especially in the current poor economy, that billions of unaccountable dollars is not a story to other outlets. If you're late to the party, see yesterday's "Iraq snapshot" and Kat's "The House Veterans Affairs Committee was pissed." And very quickly noting a few highlights of yesterday's hearing.

The GAO repeatedly outlines the problems and the VA refuses to address them. US House Rep Cliff Stearns established this with his line of questioning and established that the VA has repeatedly been asked to get with the program but never can seem to do that. The same conclusions over and over by the GAO and each year billions go missing from the VA. As Ranking Member Steve Buyer observed, "I mean, right now, you could look back and the last three or four [VA] Secretaries -- I mean, they have, since 2000, increased these directives without execution."Maybe the press ignored the story because there was consensus on both sides of the aisle?* US House Rep Ann Kirkpatrick: "And Mr. Chairman, I share the sentiment of the other members of this Committee, that this is a very serious problem that we really need to stay on top of."* Chair Bob Filner: "I would not underestimate the anger that my colleagues feel on this on both sides of the aisle."If it was a lack of conflict that had them see it as a non-story, they missed it when the VA showed up for the second panel: The Deputy Assistant Secretary for Finance Edward Murray, the Chief Financial Officer W. Paul Kearns III and Chief Procurement and Logistics Officer Frederick Downs, Jr.How much money is missing/unaccounted for? According to testimony from the VA to the Committee yesterday (specifically from Kearns):2007: $6.9 billion 2008: $11 bilion 2009: $12 billion 2010: $12 billion* 2010 is an estimate from Kearns ("We're on track this year to be right at about the same level."). So add that up and the VA can't account for $41.9 billion.$41.9 billion is missing/unaccounted for and that's not a story? This week a much, much smaller amount of unaccounted for US tax payer money has dominated the news cycle (money that was supposed to go to Iraqi reconstruction efforts and may or may not have -- no one knows where the $9.1 billion went). $41.9 billion isn't a story?
We have a Republican press release that will be noted tomorrow. It's on veterans issues -- and I'm not opposed to noting press releases from Republican Congress members; however, there's just not space for it in today's snapshot. The hearing today was interesting and there were a large number of visitors that e-mailed about the hearing earlier this week noting what would be helpful to them in the coverage. (These are veterans and veterans spouses.) So that's what I based the excerpts on. And since that's based on input, I really can't cut any of those excerpts. We'll note the press release, in full, tomorrow.

One thing we have to note, on the issue of service members is stop-loss. That's the back door draft, where you've served your time but your 'stopped' from leaving because the US military is suffering too many losses (from discharges, recruitment, demand, etc). There's a new development for thos who have been stop-lossed.
Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff If you are a service member or veteran who was involuntarily extended under Stop Loss between Sept. 11, 2001, and September 30, 2009, you are eligible for Stop Loss Special Pay. Be sure to send in your claim form before the Oct. 21 deadline; the average benefit is $3,700. See for more informa...tion. If you know someone who may be eligible, tell a friend!
See More
Retroactive Stop Loss Special Pay - The official website of the United States Department of Defense, U.S. Department of Defense, DoD, Defense, Defence, Military

Let's move over to
Democracy Now! to note Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez' interview with Patrick Cockburn today:

JUAN GONZALEZ: Patrick, I'd like to ask you about this whole other issue of the report on -- by Chris Busby and some other epidemiologists about the situation in Fallujah and the enormous increases in leukemias and cancers in Fallujah after the US soldiers' attack on that city. Could you talk about that?

PATRICK COCKBURN: Sure. I think what's significant, very significant, about this study is that it confirms lots of anecdotal evidence that there had been a serious increase in cancer, in babies being born deformed, I mean, sometimes with -- grotesquely so, babies -- you know, a baby girl born with two heads, you know, people born without limbs, then a whole range of cancers increased enormously. That this was --when I was in Fallujah, doctors would talk about this, but, you know one couldn't -- one could write about this, but one couldn't really prove it from anecdotal evidence. Now this is a study, a scientific study, based on interviews with 4,800 people, which gives -- proves that this was in fact happening and is happening. And, of course, it took -- you know, it has taken place so much later than the siege of Fallujah, when it was heavily bombarded in 2004 by the US military, because previously, you know, Fallujah is such a dangerous place to this day, difficult to carry out a survey, but it's been finally done, and the results are pretty extraordinary.

AMY GOODMAN: What were the various weapons that were used in the bombing of Fallujah in 2004?

PATRICK COCKBURN: Well, primarily, it was sort of, you know, artillery and bombing. Initially it was denied that white phosphorus had been used, but later this was confirmed.

We're stopping Cockburn because he's leaving out an important fact (did you catch it?). First Democracy Now!'s coverage of white phosphorus includes the November 8, 2005 "
U.S. Broadcast Exclusive - "Fallujah: The Hidden Massacre" on the U.S. Use of Napalm-Like White Phosphorus Bombs" -- they've covered the topic many times. November 2005 was an important month because while Scott Shane and the New York Times were sneering (and mocking the documentary), DN! also aired "A Debate: Did the U.S. Military Attack Iraqi Civilians With White Phosphorous Bombs in Violation of the Geneva Conventions?" (November 8, 2005).

That second story, broadcast November 8, 2005, is what needs to be noted. It was on that broadcast -- not in the pages of NYT -- that the US military finally confirmed the use of white phosophorus in Iraq. Excerpt:

AMY GOODMAN: So are you confirming that you used white phosphorus in Fallujah, but saying that it's simply not illegal?
LT. COL. STEVE BOYLAN: White phosphorus has been used. I do not recall it was used as an offensive weapon. White phosphorus is used for marking targets for both air and ground forces. White phosphorus is used to destroy equipment and other types of things. It is used to destroy weapons caches. And it is used to produce a white smoke which can obscure the enemy's vision of what we are doing.
AMY GOODMAN: And you're using it in Iraq?
LT. COL. STEVE BOYLAN: We have used it in the past. It is a perfectly legal weapon to use.
AMY GOODMAN: Maurizio Torrealta, news editor for the Italian state broadcaster, RAI 24. Your response?
MAURIZIO TORREALTA: Well, the United States, as the UK and Italy, signed the convention about prohibition of chemical weapons. And the convention define precisely that what make forbidden an agent, a chemical agent, is not the chemical agent itself. Because as Lieutenant said, the white phosphorus can be used to light the scene of a battle. And in that case, it's acceptable. But what make a chemical agent forbidden is the use that is done with it. If you use white phosphorus to kill the people, to burn and to block them, people and animals, even animals say the convention that we all sign, Italy, United States and UK, this is a forbidden chemical agent. And we are full of picture that show bodies of young people, of children, of women which have strange -- particular, they are dead with a big corruption of the skin and show even the bone. And the clothes are intact, untouched. And that shows there has been an aggressive agent like white phosphorus that has done that. And we have all the number of those bodies and the place where they have been buried. So any international organization that wanted to inquire about that has all the tools and information to do it. And even the witness -- the U.S. military that we interview confirmed that the use of white phosphorus was against the population. And we have even picture of the fact that has been told by the helicopter down to the city, not by the ground up in the air to light the scene. Also the images, they spoke by themselves.
Cockburn states today, "Initially it was denied that white phosphorus had been used, but later this was confirmed." It requires noting that "later this was confirmed" took place on Democracy Now! Back to today's report:

PATRICK COCKBURN: I think one shouldn't lose sight of the fact, in this case, that before one thinks about was depleted uranium used and other things, that just simply the use of high -- large quantities of high explosives in a city filled with civilians and people packed into houses -- often you find, you know, whole families living in one room -- was, in itself, going to create, lead to very, very high civilian casualties. But that's not what we're talking about here. We're talking about the increase in cancers and so forth, and the suspicion that maybe depleted uranium, maybe some other weapon, which we don't know about -- this is not my speculation, but of one of the professors who carried out the study -- might have been employed in Fallujah, and that would be an explanation for results which parallel, in fact exceed, the illnesses subsequently suffered by survivors of Hiroshima.

AMY GOODMAN: You know, it's interesting, under President Bush, Afghanistan was the forgotten war; under President Obama, Iraq is the forgotten war. Patrick?

PATRICK COCKBURN: Yeah, it's interesting, and it's very depressing, I think, you know, that -- I suppose the great success of the surge wasn't really militarily, but to get Iraq off the front pages and leading television news in the United States. And, you know, people speak of Iraq being better. I suppose it is better. You know, we only have about 300 people murdered every month rather than the 3,000 a month we had a few years ago. But it's still extremely bad. But, you know, it's sort of -- it is very strange that, you know, last weekend we had forty pilgrims killed in a southern Iraqi city by a bomb, and really you would have to hunt through the media to find any mention of this at all. And this is, you know, continually happening. But it was as if Iraq had returned to some sort of peace. Well, actually, it remains one of the most violent countries in the world. Maybe Somalia is worse, but not many other places.

Let's stay with the violence.


Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Falluja roadside bombing which wounded four police officers, a second Falluja roadside bombing which claimed the life of 1 Iraqi soldier and left five more wounded and, dropping back to Wednesday for the rest, a Falluja roadside bombing which claimed 3 lives (including Imam Ehsan Abdul Lateef Al Duri) and a Zimmar roadside bombing wounded one woman.


Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 3 Iraqi soldiers were "tied-up" and then shot dead in Baghdad " Iraqi police, army and firemen were heading to the site as another four roadside bombs exploded in different routes in a quick secession about 15 minutes for all roadside bombs, targeting the first responders. 16 were killed including 7 civilians and 14 were injured including seven civilians," and, dropping back to Wednesday for the rest, a Mosul home invasion in which 1 woman and her son were killed and 1 Iraqi soldier shot dead in Mosul.

The violence continues, so does the political stalemate. March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. Three months and two days later, still no government. 163 seats are needed to form the executive government (prime minister and council of ministers). When no single slate wins 163 seats (or possibly higher -- 163 is the number today but the Parliament added seats this election and, in four more years, they may add more which could increase the number of seats needed to form the executive government), power-sharing coalitions must be formed with other slates, parties and/or individual candidates. (Eight Parliament seats were awarded, for example, to minority candidates who represent various religious minorities in Iraq.) Ayad Allawi is the head of Iraqiya which won 91 seats in the Parliament making it the biggest seat holder. Second place went to State Of Law which Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister, heads. They won 89 seats. Nouri made a big show of lodging complaints and issuing allegations to distract and delay the certification of the initial results while he formed a power-sharing coalition with third place winner Iraqi National Alliance -- this coalition still does not give them 163 seats. They are claiming they have the right to form the government. It's four months and five days and,
in 2005, Iraq took four months and seven days to pick a prime minister. It's now 4 months and 22 days. Iraq's Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari greeted Shoji Ogawa today in Baghdad (Japan's Ambassador to Iraq). Prashant Rao (AFP) reports that Zebari called the stalemate "embarrassing" and quotes him stating, "It's embarrassing to be honest with you, for me, and I have avoided a number of foreign visits."

Turning to England, Brendan O'Neill offers "
Hans Blix's Stalinist rewriting of history" (Spiked):

Blix put Iraq in a no-win situation. Before setting off to inspect it in 2002/early 2003,
he told a reporter that 'not seeing something, not seeing an indication of something, does not lead automatically to the conclusion that there is nothing'. So if he found weapons there would be war, and if he didn't find weapons, well, there might still be war. The pro-war lobby saw what it wanted to see in Blix's suspicions-filled final report to the UN in January 2003, with one account rightly arguing that it 'greatly strengthened the American and British case for war'. Far from trying to prevent war, the weapons inspectors -- with their demented scaremongering between 1998 and 2003 -- provided Washington and London with the perfect justification for their military venture. Only a fool would idolise Blix. The spat between him and the US and the UK is no principled stand-off between anti-war and pro-war camps. Rather it is a struggle amongst clashing invading forces, with Blix defending the right of his people to occupy and blackmail the 'moral lepers' of Iraq for the rest of time, while Bush and Blair preferred to launch all-out war against those 'moral lepers'.

Former UN weapons inspector Blix testified
Tuesday to the Iraq Inquiry -- here for a critique of it -- and offered a bunch of self-grandizing statements, a bunch of inconsistent remarks and a lot of justifications for the illegal war. O'Neill is correct, "Only a fool would idolise Blix." Blix has made a semi-name for himself by basically coming over to Margie's house and trashing everyone and then going over to Sally's house and when people object to his remarks at Margie's, Blix immediately disowns them -- even going so far as to claim he was misquoted. He has offered conflicting tales over and over for the last seven years. His testimony was in keeping with his desire to reinvent 'reality' and aided no one. Meanwhile Chris Ames (Iraq Inquiry Digest) takes issue with recent coverage from the Independent of London which he feels misreads the testimonies and the documents, "Again, this is to confuse what the Inquiry has done in its public hearings with what it has found out behind the scenes. Given that the Independent has done so much to highlight the unpublished documents, this is surprising. If the Inquiry is not able to publish any further information and thus confront witnesses with the contradictions, it may as well draw its public hearings to a close. But Chilcot's options are not constrained by the lack of decisive new evidence, just limits on what he is able and willing to make public."

In England today, Iraq was a topic as two brothers each sought to be the leader of the Labour Party.
Patrick Wintour (Guardian) reports:

In a two-hour Radio 5 hustings,
David Miliband claimed that his brother Ed was in the same position over the Iraq war as all the other candidates save Diane Abbott, since she alone had vocally opposed the conflict at the time.
[. . .]
The pointed exchanges started when Ed Miliband sought to distinguish himself from his brother, saying: "One of the differences between David and myself is I think I am more critical of some of the things we did in government, and more willing to move on from some of the mistakes that we made, not just on
foreign policy, like Iraq, but on the economy and the fact that we have left lots of people on low wages."
David Miliband countered: "I do not believe we lost the 2010 election because of Iraq and we fool ourselves if we think [we lost] places like Stevenage -- that we won in 2005 -- because of Iraq."

As noted before, I know and like both David and Ed Miliband and I hope the above excerpt was balanced to give each a word. In legal news,
Emma Ross-Thomas (Bloomberg News) reports that Spanish Judge Santiago Pedraz has issued arrest warrants for US service members Sgt Thomas Gibson, Capt Philip Wolford and Lt Col Philip de Camp over the April 8, 2003 death of journalist Jose Couso who was killed in an US assault on the Palestine Hotel. We'll close with this -- on the US -- from David Swanson's "Peace Movement Adopts New Comprehensive Strategy" (War Is Not A Crime):

Last week 700 leading peace activists from around the United States met and strategized in Albany, N.Y. ( ). They discussed, debated, and voted for a comprehensive new plan for the coming months. The plan includes a new focus and some promising proposals for building a coalition that includes the labor movement, civil rights groups, students, and other sectors of the activist world that have an interest in ending wars and/or shifting our financial resources from wars to where they're actually needed. The full plan, including a preface, is available online.The plan includes endorsements and commitments to participate in events planned for Detroit on August 28th, and Washington, D.C., on August 28th and October 2nd, as well as a national day of actions led by students on October 7th, and a week of anti-war actions around the country marking the start of Year 10 in Afghanistan on October 7-16. Dates to put on your calendar now for 2011 include mid-March nationally coordinated teach-ins to mark the eighth year of the Iraq War and to prepare for bi-coastal spring demonstrations the following month, New York City, San Francisco and Los Angeles mobilizations on April 9, 2011, and blocking of ports on May Day.Here is the full list of actions agreed upon: 1.The Rainbow PUSH Coalition and the United Auto Workers (UAW) have invited peace organizations to endorse and participate in a campaign for Jobs, Justice, and Peace. We endorse this campaign and plan to be a part of it. On August 28, 2010, in Detroit, we will march on the anniversary of that day in 1963 when Walter Reuther, president of UAW, Martin Luther King, Jr., and other civil rights leaders joined with hundreds of thousands of Americans for the March on Washington. In Detroit, prior to the March on Washington, 125,000 marchers participated in the Freedom Walk led by Dr. King. At the march, King delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech for the first time before sharing it with the world in Washington. This year, a massive march has been called for October 2 in Washington. We will begin to build momentum again in Detroit on August 28th. We also endorse the August 28, 2010 Reclaim the Dream Rally and March called by Rev. Al Sharpton and the National Action Network to begin at 11 a.m.. at Dunbar High School, 1301 New Jersey Avenue Northwest.2.Endorse, promote and mobilize for the Saturday, October 2nd "One Nation" march on Washington, DC initiated by 1199SEIU and the NAACP, now being promoted by a growing coalition, which includes the AFL-CIO and U.S. Labor Against the War, and civil rights, peace and other social justice forces in support of the demand for jobs, redirection of national resources from militarism and war to meeting human needs, fully funding vital social programs, and addressing the fiscal crisis of state and local governments. Organize and build an antiwar contingent to participate in the march. Launch a full-scale campaign to get endorsements for the October 2 march on Washington commencing with the final plenary session of this conference.3.Endorse the call issued by a range of student groups for Thursday, October 7, as a national day of action to defend education from the horrendous budget cuts that are laying off teachers, closing schools, raising tuition and limiting access to education, especially for working and low income people. Demand "Money for Education, not U.S. Occupations" and otherwise link the cuts in spending for education to the astronomical costs of U.S. wars and occupations.4.Devote October 7-16 to organizing local and regional protests to commemorate the ninth anniversary of the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan through demonstrations, marches, rallies, vigils, teach-ins, cultural events and other actions to demand an immediate end to the wars and occupations in both Iraq and Afghanistan and complete withdrawal of all military forces and private security contractors and other mercenaries. The nature and scheduling of these events will reflect the needs of local sponsors and should be designed to attract broad co-sponsorship and diverse participation of antiwar forces with other social justice organizations and progressive constituencies.5.Support and build Remember Fallujah Week November 15-19.

Full list? Use the link to read in full.

amy goodman

the guardian
the telegraph of londonpatrick wintour

Read on ...

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Bully Parker

That's "Bully Parker" from December 3, 2006 -- when Nouri al-Maliki punked Bully Boy Bush in front of the world.

As Bush waited to see if Nouri would 'honor' him, he came across (to me) like a Dorothy Parker poem.

Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Thursday July 22, 2010. Chaos and violence continues, the Iraqi refugee crisis continues, the US (and many other countries) offers a paltry dollar figure towards humanitarian relief, Turkey looks for new ways to keep the PKK out, and more.

Starting with Iraqi refugees. Tuesday the United Nations released [PDF format warning] "
Regional Response Plan for Iraqi Refugees." The 108 page report focuses on "the immediate needs of Iraqi refugees in 12 countries: Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Egypt, Iran" Oman, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, Saudia Arabia and the UAE. Syria, Jordan and Lebanon continue to house the most Iraqi refugees. And humanitarian organizations -- including the UNHCR, CARITAS, CARE International, UNICEF, France RC, -- are suffering from a drop in donations. This comes at a time when Iraq itself continues to be unstable. The report notes that "human rights violations continue, including illegal detention, targeted killing, kidnapping and discrimination. The formation of a new Government following the Parliamentary elections in March continues to be delayed and the political vacuum may continue until August or September 2010." These conditions and others continue to influence the flow of Iraqis out of Iraq and create new refugees -- with very few refugees (the report covers external refugees only) returning to Iraq. In Syria, for example, new Iraqi refugees are citing "threats made against them" and/or "the security situation in their area" as reasons for departing Iraq in 2010. One new feature emerging is a drop in official refugees. How can that be?

Many refugees are no longer apparently confident that they can be helped and they have been dropped from the UNHCR rolls (it's noted that all they have to do is ask to be reactivated). In addition, this year, the UN has resetled 7,918 Iraqi refugees as of May 31st. The report offers a breakdown of registered refugees by country and by gender. GCC is Gulf Cooperation Council and Oman, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, Saudia Arabia and the UAE make up the GCC. Iraqi refugees (registered) in Syria, Jordan and Egypt make up 49% of each countries' Iraqi refugees. By contrast, in Lebanaon, females make up only 36% of the Iraqi refugee population with males coming in at 64%. All host countries have similar needs because the realities refugees face don't differ a great deal. They need medical assistance, they need food assistance, they need training if they're fortunate enough to be in an area that will allow them to work, they need housing assistance and much more. It's all the basics and with the global economy having dived, donations are down to humanitarian organizations.

We won't provide a breakdown of each country (the report does); however, we will not a camp on the border between Syria and Iraq. Iraq's Palestinian population has been noted at this site several time before; however, it is the segment of the population that has received the least attention at this site. So we'll note the section on the ones at Al-Hol camp in full. But first, Palestinians who became Iraqi refugees mainly populated Al-Hol, Al-Tanaf, Al-Walid and Al-Ruwesiehed camps. The Al-Tanaf camp closed February 1st. The Al-Hol camp was set up in 1991, during the first Gulf War. Children of this camp attend Syrian schools. From the report, we'll note:

As of 15 May 2010, some 561 Palestinians from Iraq were living in Al-Hol camp. This population comprises three major groups:

1) The former Al-Hol camp population, the majority of whom is awaiting the completion of formalities for resettlement departure.
2) The remaining Al-Tanf population who were transferred to Al-Hol between the ened of 2009 and 31 January 2010, and have fallen outside the resettlement process for Al-Tanf camp.
3) Palestinian refugees recently arrived at the camp from Damascus.

Since the beginning of the year, various achievements have been made. They include the closure of the Al-Tanf camp, thanks to increased advocacy efforts by the humanitarian community in 2009 with the Syrian Government and resettlement countries.
Regarding the Al-Hol situation, improved and standardized registration procedures for camp residents have been introduced, all vulnerabilites and basic bio-data being checked and updated. Three refugee committees were newly elected and participate in the camp management and decision-making process.
All agencies involved have set up and now closely monitor an accountability framework of the activities. On the assistance side, all shelters have been connected to the potable water system; a food basket was agreed at the beginning of the year with the refugee community; primary health care has been provided at the camp level; and regular food and NFI distributions (such as hygiene kits or school supplies) have taken place.
In terms of solutions, return to Iraq is not considered a viable option, given the current security situation and the uncertain future for Palestinians in Iraq. Resettlement is still considered the most desirable option for Palestinians ex-Iraq living in Al-Hol camp. At the same time, UNHCR and UNRWA are exploring a local temporary solution with the Syrian authorities, whereby part of the remaining Palestinian population from Iraq would be authorized to regularize their stay and enjoy a set of minimal rights.
In this view, and similarly to the process that took place in Al-Tanf, the Syrian Ministry for Foreign Affairs has publicly communicated that its objective is to support the joint efforts to close Al-Hol camp by the end of 2010.

It's worth noting that while US government dollars have been wasted on a huge number of projects and 'projects,' the US -- which led on the Iraq War which produced the refugee crisis -- has only agreed to provide $17,724,493 (in US dollars). That's appalling. Though they can take pride in not being the United Kingdom ($2,400,000). And Australia whose John Howard (prime minister when the war started) wanted to be a player and got so upset when the press would forget to mention him as one of the three big leaders on the war? They're bellying up to the bar to waive $161,570. They can't even reach the million mark. How very sad. Of course, these are only the figures to date and all the countries -- including the US -- could increase their contributions before the end of the year.
Refugees International issued the following press release today:

Washington, D.C. -- Refugees International President L. Craig Johnstone today called for a greater U.S. commitment to more than two million Iraqis who have fled their homes due to conflict and fear of persecution during seven years of U.S. engagement in Iraq. "As the U.S. military departs Iraq it is leaving behind nearly 500,000 Iraqi refugees -- mainly in Syria and Jordan -- and one and a half million Iraqis who have been uprooted from their homes, many of whom live in total destitution in shanty towns of Iraq," said L. Craig Johnstone, President of Refugees International. "This is the tragic legacy of the conflict in Iraq and as the United States disengages militarily it would be unconscionable to abandon our responsibilities to these civilian victims of war." Ambassador Johnstone testified at a Helsinki Commission hearing, "No Way Home, No Way to Escape: The Plight of Iraqi Refugees and Our Iraqi Allies." Johnstone is former Deputy UN High Commissioner for Refugees, and former U.S. Ambassador and Director for Resources, Plans and Policy in the Department of State. Recalling his own experiences in Vietnam, he called on Congress and the Administration to step up to its commitment to Iraqi refugees, as it did after the fall of Saigon. "The United States was woefully unprepared for the collapse of South Vietnam and unfortunately the prevailing attitude bordered on callous disregard for the well being of the many Vietnamese civilians the U.S. was about to leave behind," stated Johnstone. "But as Saigon was falling, the nation mobilized with unprecedented effort, opening its arms to welcome to hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese refugees. We now face an analogous situation in Iraq, and the United States must again wake up to its responsibility -- this time to the millions of Iraqi civilians displaced by the war." Johnstone asked Congress to expand the program that has resettled some 48,000 Iraqis in the Unites States, and to provide greater financial and social support for refugees struggling to rebuild their lives. Seven years after the beginning of the war in Iraq, an unprecedented number of Iraqis are still living in squatter slums filled with open sewers and lacking water and electricity. Most of the squatter settlements are located precariously under bridges, alongside railroad tracks and amongst garbage dumps. Following visits this year to 20 different squatter settlements throughout Iraq, RI found that nearly 500,000 Iraqis are left living in squalor receiving little help from the Iraqi government, aid agencies and the United Nations. Johnstone called on Congress and the Administration to fund at least 50 percent of the United Nations humanitarian appeals for Iraq and noted that to date it has funded only 23 percent of the some $700 million requested. "The United States must fund humanitarian efforts in proportion to its responsibility," stated Johnstone. RI also recommended that the UN adapt its security measures so that humanitarian officials can access squatter communities regularly and provide assistance. "UN and U.S. officials need to get out of the Green Zone and work the problem where it is, in the slums, in the cardboard shelters that go without electricity or sewage systems," stated Johnstone. In February RI staff traveled to Iraq, Jordan and Syria where they interviewed displaced people, local and national government officials and international agencies. Since November 2006, the organization has conducted eleven missions to the Middle East and has led the call to increase assistance and solutions for displaced Iraqis. To read the report, go to: International is a Washington, DC-based organization that advocates to end refugee crises and receives no government or UN funding.

Oussayma Canbarieh (CBC) reported Friday from Damascus on Iraqi refugees (the UN report notes that Damascus is home to the most Iraqi refugees within Syria) where people like Zakiya reside: "Look at me here, I used to be happy. Now, I've lost it all. First two of my daughters were killed and, a couple of months ago, my husband went back to Baghdad to get us some of our savings and he never came back." Meanwhile John Pontifex notes that Syrian Bishop Antoine Audo SJ has thanked Aid to the Church in Need for their latest contribution of $29,000. From Pontifex's press release:

The Chaldean-rite bishop, who is a Jesuit, said: "I do not think the situation for Christians in Iraq is improving. It is still difficult especially in Mosul [city, north Iraq]. "In Baghdad, it varies a lot. Life can be quite normal and then suddenly there can be attacks on the churches and acts of persecution against the people." His comments come after Pope Benedict XVI told the new Iraqi ambassador to the Holy See that the beleaguered country should "give priority to improved security, particularly for the various minorities". At the meeting earlier this month in which Habeeb Mohammed Hadi Ali al-Sadr presented his credentials to the Pontiff, the Pope stressed his concern that if at all possible, Christians resolve to stay in their ancestral homeland. But he added: "Iraqi Christians need to know that it is safe for them to remain in or return to their homes and they need assurances that their properties will be restored to them and their rights upheld." Aid to the Church in Need is prioritising help for the Middle East after Pope Benedict XVI told the charity that "Churches in the Middle East are threatened in their very existence." As well as helping Iraqi Christian refugees in Syria, ACN is providing aid for those fleeing to Turkey and Jordan.

Also giving thanks this week was Ayad Allawi.
Al Jazeera notes, "Allawi in turn thanked Syria for hosting hundreds of thousands of Iraqi refugees and for its support for efforts to restore stability in Iraq." Meanwhile AINA reports that the Council of Europe is demanding that "the Swedish government stop the deportation of Iraqis." And Gabriel Gatehouse (BBC News -- link has video) reports on an internal refugee camp within Iraq near the Iranian border.

Gabriel Gatehouse: [. . .] this tent village has grown up in just the last month. The people who are living here now come from villages between here and that border [Iranian border] and they fled because of the persistent shelling from inside Iran and aerial bombardments byTurkish planes. They're living a very basic life, water systems provided by UNHCR, the same for the tents they're living in. These people are farmers, they're too scared to go back home to their villages. What's more, they don't know when they'll be able to go back.

Turkish military aircraft is targeting the PKK -- a Kurdish group which believes in an autonomous, Kurdish homeland and is considered a terrorist organization by Turkey, Iraq, the US and others. From the
June 3rd snapshot: "Shamal Arqawi (Reuters) reports that the cease fire the PKK had with Turkey is now off according to 'PKK spokesman Ahmed Danees [. . .] in Kurdistan. This followed PKK leader (one of them) Abdullah Ocalan, in prison in Turkey since 1999, stated he was no longer engaging in any dialoge with the government of Turkey. Last month a historic visit took place to Turkey and that got little attention as well. Even though PBS' NewsHour had Turkey's Foreign Minister on as a guest the day before, they didn't even bother to ask about the meeting. Robert Olson (Lexington Herald-Leader) offers: Turkey reportedly offered KRG President Masoud Barzani these choices when he visited in June: The KRG takes unilateral armed action to destroy PKK bases in Iraq; or the KRG, Baghdad government and/or U.S. forces take joint action against the camps. Failing either of those, Turkey undertakes "unilateral armed action against the PKK in Iraq," including a substantial land invasion. Turkey's top commanders say the U.S. -- loathe to diminish the political and military power of the KRG or the Kurds in Iraq -- would oppose a major Turkish incursion. But if the PKK attacks from Iraq into Turkey continue, Ankara may risk U.S. ire by launching an invasion into northern Iraq because Turkish nationalist outrage against the PKK and Kurds could hurt the ruling Justice and Development Part (JDP), led by Prime Minster Recep Tayyib Erdogan, in next year's national election. Today's Zaman reports, "Turkish defense authorities have decided to use remote sensing systems, called 'moles,' to prevent the infiltration of terrorists from Turkey's border with northern Iraq and to ensure the security of military outposts along the border." As they work to keep the PKK from slipping in, Justin Vela (Asia Times) notes, Turkey is flooding northern Iraq with investment money which is, historically, one way to control a region. Gabriel Gatehouse (BBC News) reports from a PKK camp in northern Iraq: After a number of abortive approaches, we finally made contact with the PKK.With the help of a guide, for hours we travelled by car along miles of bumpy, unpaved winding roads up into the Qandil Mountains of northern Iraq. When we got to the camp, hidden in a dip in the mountains, our reception was friendly but guarded. Few of the fighters wanted to talk to us. About a third of them are women. All were dressed in the same heavy green uniform. Most carried Kalashnikov rifles.

Violence isn't only on the borders of Iraq.
Tim Arango (New York Times) reports the Green Zone was attacked with a rocket and 3 "foreign contractors" who work for the US Embassy in Baghdad were killed in the attack with fifteen more ("including two American citizens") injured. Ben Lando (Wall St. Journal) notes the dead hailed from Uganda (two of the dead) and Peru and that "nationalities of the other 13 injured aren't known."


Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports four Baghdad roadside bombing which injured three people, a Baghdad mortar attack which injured two people, a Diyala Province sticky bombing blew up a police officer's motorcycle, a Mosul roadside bombing claimed 1 life and left four injured (all police officers), a Mosul roadside bombing wounded three people, a Mosul sticky bombing claimed the life of "a retired Brig. Gen." and a Falluja roadside bombing claimed 1 life.


Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports Iraqi military officer Ahmed Jassim was injured in a Baghdad shooting, 1 civilian was killed in another Baghdad shooting (and one person wounded), 1 civilian was shot dead in a Mosul shooting (and two police officers and a female civilian were injured), another Mosul shooting claimed 1 life and another Mosul shooting claimed 1 life.

In other news,
Ned Parker and Usama Redha (Los Angeles Times) report Camp Cropper prison (just handed semi-over to Iraqis -- US military retains one wing) saw four prisoners escape today.

Meanwhile March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. Three months and two days later, still no government. 163 seats are needed to form the executive government (prime minister and council of ministers). When no single slate wins 163 seats (or possibly higher -- 163 is the number today but the Parliament added seats this election and, in four more years, they may add more which could increase the number of seats needed to form the executive government), power-sharing coalitions must be formed with other slates, parties and/or individual candidates. (Eight Parliament seats were awarded, for example, to minority candidates who represent various religious minorities in Iraq.) Ayad Allawi is the head of Iraqiya which won 91 seats in the Parliament making it the biggest seat holder. Second place went to State Of Law which Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister, heads. They won 89 seats. Nouri made a big show of lodging complaints and issuing allegations to distract and delay the certification of the initial results while he formed a power-sharing coalition with third place winner Iraqi National Alliance -- this coalition still does not give them 163 seats. They are claiming they have the right to form the government. It's four months and five days and,
in 2005, Iraq took four months and seven days to pick a prime minister. Today makes it four months and fifteen days without any government being established.The Council of Foreign Relations' Mohamad Bazzi (New York Daily News) focuses on Moqtada al-Sadr's face-to-face with Ayad Allawi earlier this week, "But Sadr's political ascendance threatens to stoke sectarian tensions in Iraq: His followers were responsible for some of the worst atrocities against Sunnis during the country's recent civil war. Sadr's militia, the Mahdi Army, unleashed death squads that assassinated Sunnis and drove them out of Shiite neighborhoods." The editorial board of the New York Times weighs in on the stalemate:Four months after national elections gave a cross-sectarian alliance led by Ayad Allawi, a former prime minister, a two-seat lead over Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki's Shiite coalition, Iraqi politicians are still squabbling over who should form the new government. Until that is sorted out, Mr. Maliki is in charge -- a caretaker with limited authority. The list of problems for the new government to address is long. Iraq's economy is growing, but even the most optimistic estimate puts unemployment at 15 percent. Despite billions of dollars in American aid -- too much of it squandered on corruption and mismanagement -- Iraqis still lack adequate electricity.Iraqi politicians also have yet to settle some of the most difficult, and potentially combustible, political issues. The government has to come up with a better plan for protecting, and employing, former Sunni insurgents whose decision to switch sides helped quell the violence. They are increasingly the target of revenge killings by Al Qaeda in Iraq. The Parliament still has not agreed on laws for negotiating oil contracts and for sharing oil revenues. Competing Kurdish and Arab claims to the oil-rich city of Kirkuk must be settled.

In London yesterday, the Iraq Inquiry heard from
Stephen White (Director of Law and Order and Senior Policy Adviser to the Coalition Provisional Authority, 2003 - 2004), Colin Smith (Senior Police Adviser, Basra, 2005 - 2006), Lt Gen Anthony Palmer (Deputy Chief of Defence Staff - Personnel - 2002 - 2005), Lt Gen Alistair Irwin (Adjutant General, 2003 - 2005), Carolyn Miller (Director Europe, Middle East and Americas, Department for International Debelopment 2001 - 2004) (link goes to video and transcript option). Last week, we were calling out Dimiter Kenarov's idiotic article for Esquire where he was glorifying DynCorps. So we'll note that they got a shout-out in the hearing. Colin Smith: I don't think they were initially. I think the IPLOs, who worked the Dyncorps were really working as part of CPATT and they saw their role as looking at 22 very much logistics. They didn't see them themselves coming under British military command. They didn't see themselves coming under my command. So they attended weekly meetings with the Provost Marshall in the APOD, MND South East headquarters, but they really were operating -- I brought them in -- when I looked at the development strategy, I brought them on board and their views were taken. I tried to bring them in to be more inclusive but it was difficult because they just awe [saw] themselves as part of CPATT, which was a US-led organisation. They didn't see themselves as part of the team. I made them welcome and I think by the time I left, I would like to say again the work Dave Haverley(?) and his team did -- that we brought them all on board. The Armourgroup when I arrived, were very much on a contract, set to do certain things -- mentoring, monitoring, advising and I was slightly surprised to find they weren't actually under my control. So I couldn't task them. Contractors were mentioned in James Jeffrey's hearing this week on his nomination to be the US Ambassador to Iraq (click here for Tuesday's snapshot, Wednesday's snapshot, Kat's coverage, Ava's coverage and Wally's coverage). It's worth noting that there are few problems that could spring up in the coming months with contractors that could be seen as surprising at this late date. A point to remember should mercenaries shoot up Iraqi civilians again and the State Dept try to spin a Condi Rice golden oldie: "No one could have guessed." We'll note this from Lt Gen Anthony Palmer's testimony: Committee Member MARTIN GILBERT: I would like to ask about a specific MoD announcement which we have taken evidence on. That was the announcement in March 2003, made on 20 March, that unmarried partners of service personnel killed in operations might be eligible for the equivalent of a widow's pension so long as certain eligibility criteria were met. Can you tell us the background to this rather important change of policy? LT. GEN. ANTHONY PALMER: Gosh! Well, clearly it has to be seen in the general context of government policy on partners more widely. My own personal view was that we ought to be responding to partnerships in exactly the same way as we should be responding to marriages, and that, of course, eventually became the law. So we were looking for a response which took that into account, and to me, quite clearly, if somebody had been living as a partner, provided it could be proved, and I seem to recall one of the difficulties was to define exactly what a partner was and, as I recollect, it was if there was a joint mortgage on a house or whatever. So, as you can imagine, in the armed forces there are partnerships and partnerships, and some are enduring and really take the place of a marriage and others less so. So this, again, I think is an example of where we had to tread very carefully. Another issue I think was that there was a bit of reluctance within some parts of the armed forces on the partnership issue. It wasn't generally accepted that it was going to be necessarily a good thing to have people who were married and people who were partners, and we are going back eight years now, so obviously the situation has changed since, living on the same married quarter, etc. So there were issues like that. That's why I say that coordination, consultation with the principal personnel officers and, of course, with ministers on this issue, and sometimes other government departments, was extremely important to produce an enduring policy. Committee Member MARTIN GILBERT: Given the actual timing of it, to what extent was it driven by the imminence of the invasion, and to what extent was it a longer element that just happened to come into place on that day? LT. GEN. ANTHONY PALMER: Well, quite clearly, there were going to be issues that were going to affect people in partnerships, that were going to need to have exactly the same treatment as people in marriage, for instance, in the event of a fatality or whatever. As I said, I was very keen to make sure that these people were treated with the same degree of compassion and sensitivity, because, to me, a partnership, provided it meets the criteria, is every bit as much a commitment as a marriage, that they should be treated exactly the same and that is eventually what happened. LT. GEN. SIR ALISTAIR IRWIN: I have a little titbit to add to that, if that's helpful. I am pretty sure I am right in remembering that the issue of partners' entitlements emerged after the death in action of Bombadier Tinnion in Sierra Leone, during the course of a helicopter assault in the rescuing of some hostages. Bombadier Tinnion's partner -- I think they had a baby. I think they had been planning to get married, but they had not got round to it. The rules at the time clearly were going to be disadvantageous to her, because there was no entitlement to anything of the things she would have had, had she been a wife. There was then -- that, I think, was in 1999, something like that, towards the end of 1999. So from then until -- I don't remember when, but certainly halfway through my time as Adjutant General, this was an issue that was debated, and, you know, as Anthony says, there were a lot of different opinions. Certainly at the beginning of the argument, as Adjutant General, I am afraid I took an old-fashioned view that, you know, commitment means marriage and, if you love somebody enough, you should marry and then -- but clearly this is an out-of-date idea now. Chris Ames (Iraq Inquiry Digest) covers Carolyn Miller's testimony here. And that covers the three testimonies worth noting.

Turning to the issue of US service members. This afternoon,
Lt Dan Choi Tweeted the following:

I have been discharged under DADT. Our fight is just beginning. via Twitterrific

"DADT" is Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Dan Choi is an openly gay man serving in the military. Many people thought voting for Barack Obama would mean the end of DADT -- because Barack and Michelle Obama claimed it would mean that. But DADT continues. Don't despair though, Barack's ordered a study about repealing it. And, maybe someday, it could be repealed.
Bill Hutchinson (New York Daily News) quotes Dan stating, "After 11 years since beginning my journey at West Point and after 17 months of serving openly as an infantry officer this is both an infuriating and painful announcement." The Advocate has posted [PDF format warning] the discharge letter which notes Lt Dan Choi will be discharged July 31st. CNN adds:

Choi told CNN he received the news through a phone call from his Army National Guard battalion commander. His discharge, however, actually became effective on June 29, according to Eric Durr, a National Guard spokesman.
"You prepare yourself," Choi said. "I built an armor up."
Choi, a 2003 West Point graduate who is fluent in Arabic, was an infantry platoon leader, serving with his unit in Iraq in 2006 and 2007.

Turning to veterans issues, in England,
Today (BBC News -- link has audio) speaks with Iraq War veteran Sgt Maj John Dale who states, "You can't come back and just switch off." Meanwhile in the US, Iraq War veteran Peter Kastner has taken his own life. WSAW reports that he was discovered at Yellowstone National Park. WQOW notes that Park Rangers began looking for him in May after finding his rental car but only discovered his body last week. His father Larry Kastner tells WXOW that his son suffered from PTSD. KOTV reports that the "autoposy revealed Kastner died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound." KRTV adds, "Kastner had been honorably discharged from the Marine Corps after serving for four years. During his service, he was injured twice by Improvised Explosive Devices while serving in Iraq." John Brewer (Pioneer Press) explains, "Male veterans are twice as likely as civilians of either gender to commit suicide, according to the VA, with 1,000 suicides occurring per year among veterans receiving VA care. About 5,000 suicides occur per year among all living veterans, the VA said, an average of 14 veterans a day."The House and Senate Veterans Affairs Committees have examined the suicide rate and other issues effecting veterans such as education which is the topic of a press release issued by Senator Daniel Akak who chairs the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee:AKAKA TO MOVE FORWARD WITH POST-9/11 GI BILL IMPROVEMENT ACTChairman holds hearing on strengthening new education programWASHINGTON, D.C. -- Following a favorable hearing on improving the Post-9/11 GI Bill, Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee Chairman Daniel K. Akaka (D-Hawaii) is preparing to move forward with legislation to improve the new program. "The original GI Bill changed my life and our country," said Akaka, one of three current U.S. Senators who went to college on the original GI Bill. "I am committed to strengthening the new program for post-9/11 troops and veterans, and I look forward to moving this improvement bill to a vote."Akaka is the author of a S. 3447, the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Improvements Act of 2010, a bill to enhance the new education benefit for veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts. The Committee on Veterans' Affairs is scheduled to hold a markup of pending legislation on August 5, 2010, at which point Akaka intends to bring the bill up for a vote.At the hearing yesterday, witnesses testified in support of the legislation and offered suggestions. Eric Hilleman of the Veterans of Foreign Wars stated that Senator Akaka's legislation "addresses every area of concern the VFW has with improving the Post-9/11 GI Bill." Tim Embree from Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America offered ideas for the draft bill as well as IAVA's endorsement. Embree said the "discussion draft of S. 3447 will improve the New GI Bill and ensure that all student veterans have access to the most generous investment in veterans' education since World War II."Akaka, a World War II veteran, attended the University of Hawaii-Manoa on the original GI Bill. He cosponsored the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and worked with Senator Jim Webb (D-Virginia) to revise and negotiate the legislation. More information about the hearing, including statements, testimony and the webcast is available here: veterans.senate.govFor more information on the GI Bill, please visit RileyCommunications DirectorU.S. Senate Committee on Veterans' AffairsSenator Daniel K. Akaka (D-Hawaii), Chairman
robert olsonthe asia timesjustin velabbc newsgabriel gatehouse
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al jazeera
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mcclatchy newspapers
hassan shimmarythe new york daily newsmohamad bazzithe new york timesthe pioneer pressjohn breweriraq inquiry digestchris ames

Read on ...

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Quality Time

I like this because it has Bully Mama in it. Bully Mama and her corns.

Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Thursday, July 15, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, Lt Dan Choi and Capt James Pietrangelo II face no charges, a US service member in Iraq is wounded in a roadside bombing, Turkey wants to put together a private military to fight the PKK and the US government wants to 'contribute' weapons, the political stalemate continues, the US Army releases the most recent suicide data, and more.

Starting in the United States.

Victory for truth today! Government drops case against us.
#DADT #LGBT via Twitterrific
That's Lt Dan Choi yesterday on
his Twitter feed. Yesterday Lt Dan Choi and Capt James Pietrangelo II went on trial for peaceful demonstrations on the sidewalk in front of the White House March 18th and April 20th calling for the White House to end the policy of Don't Ask, Don't Tell and allow gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military. They were charged with failing to obey a lawful order (to disperse). Yusef Najafi (Metro Weekly) reports both men were in the DC court yesterday prepared for the start of the trial only to be told by DC Superior Court Judge Fredrick J. Sullivan, "Your cases are dismissed." South Florida Gay News adds, "Although the prosecution was ready to move forward and the arresting officers were present in courtroom 120 of DC Superior Court this morning, the government decided at the last minute today to drop the charges against Lt. Dan Choi and Cpt. James Pietrangelo II. Apparently, Prosecutor Christine Chang was unaware of the government's decision as she stated, 'I was ready,' and wasn't able to explain the last-minute decision not to prosecute." Eve Conant (Newsweek) reports, "Both men have faced criticism for continued acts of civil disobedience designed to fight the 'don't ask, don't tell' policy, including a short hunger strike, as the Obama administration and Congress have recently begun steps toward repealing the 17-year-old ban. Choi has repeatedly told NEWSWEEK that any movement short of full and immediate repeal is welcome, but that without repeal the 'injustice' remains in force and he will continue to fight it. (Last week many gay-rights groups widely criticized a Pentagon survey on the repeal that they said was biased and could produce skewed results.)" Zachary Wilson (Queer Sighted) offers this evaluation, "Congrats to Choi, now a gay right icon, on his victory for truth. And congrats to the movement." Today he spoke to Neal Broverman (The Advocate) on the charges being dropped and other topics including Don't Ask, Don't Tell, "You've heard the Pentagon spokesperson say some ridiculous thinks about segregation. They're being so careful and 'lawyerly' about the repeal. You get the feeling that they're incompetent as far as showing real leadership." Appearing Tuesday on Patt Morrison's self-titled Soutchern California Public Radio show, Dan addressed the lack of leadership.

Lt Dan Choi: People who serve in the military -- the soldiers, the sailors, the marine, the air men, the people all throughout and any veteran -- knows very clearly education in the military does not start from a survey or a poll. Education starts from a commander laying down the law saying, "This is the right thing to do. Period. You will do this, you will not discriminate under my command." And anybody with any kind of moral or professional authority -- from the newest corporal all the way up to the commander in chief, the president of the United States -- has a moral responsibility to say, "This is the way that we are going" -- clearly, unambiguously. Discrimination of any sort is not only against the military codes and our traditions and our values but it's against America. This survey is absolutely anti-American.

Patt Morrison: So if this had happened, say, when [President Harry] Truman issued his order to [racially] integrate the armed forces?

Lt Dan Choi: Big if because it did not happen when Truman took the courageous step of just saying, "You know whatever the consequences to my political career, I am the commander in chief and the buck stops here with me. And I know the right thing to do so I am steering this ship and if you don't want to fall in line with the way that America has promised we will not discriminate, then go ahead and quit." And when he did that -- and the same thing when women entered West Point and the service acadamies, the same thing that happened when my particular Army National Guard unit allowed [. . .] the integration of Irish Catholics, the same thing that happened with Asians and all throughout our history: The military says, "This is the way we do business. We do not discriminate here." And we don't need polls to educate. It's the job, it's the duty of every commander.

GetEQUAL issued the following statement on the dismissal of charges:

WASHINGTON -- Although the prosecution was ready to move forward and the arresting officers were present in courtroom 120 of DC Superior Court this morning, the government decided at the last minute today to drop the charges against Lt. Dan Choi and Cpt. James Pietrangelo II. Apparently, Prosecutor Christine Chang was unaware of the government's decision as she stated, "I was ready," and wasn't able to explain the last-minute decision not to prosecute.
"Today, truth was the victor against a demeaning, discriminatory law known as 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell,'" said Lt. Dan Choi. "We won't stop pressing for repeal and pressuring those standing in the way until the day comes when not one more gay or lesbian servicemember is fired. And, as of today, the President refuses to tell us when that day will actually come."
"It is clear that the government was embarrassed and we were prepared to make them defend this antiquated and homophobic law. The government is afraid of having to defend this issue," said Cpt. James Pietrangelo II. "The subpoena was an embarrassment for them, 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' is an embarrassment for them and, after three months of discovery and preparation, the government dropped the case because they know it's an embarrassment."
"Civil disobedience won today," said Robin McGehee, co-founder and co-director of GetEQUAL. "We're thrilled today that Dan and Jim's actions have been validated and that non-violent civil disobedience has been proven again to be effective in combating prejudice. We are proud to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Dan, Jim and other LGBT active-duty servicemembers who are taking action to end this discriminatory policy."
Lt. Choi and Cpt. Pietrangelo were both facing two charges each of Failure to Obey a Lawful Order, pursuant to DC Municipal Regulations (18 DCMR 2000.2 (1995). The charges stemmed from the two men's arrests on March 18th and April 20th when they chained themselves to the White House gate, in an act of non-violent civil disobedience, to protest the President's lack of leadership on repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."
"We were ready to put 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' on trial today, but it was clear the government was embarrassed to defend an indefensible policy," said Mark Goldstone, lawyer for Lt. Choi's and Cpt. Pietrangelo's defense team. "Did the White House make a last-minute call to prevent this embarrassment from continuing? Clearly, someone did."
Goldstone continued, "ll fair-minded people should continue to agitate for actual and immediate repeal of this unjust, unfair policy. This is a big win for non-violent resistance to unjust policies and proves if you speak truth to power, good things can happen."
"They declined to prosecute because the case would embarrass the government," said Ann Wilcox, lawyer for Lt. Choi's and Cpt. Pietrangelo's defense team. "The President said it was important to pressure leaders like himself, and that is exactly what Lt. Choi and Cpt. Pietrangelo did before and intended to do again today."
GetEQUAL is a national, direct action lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization. Emphasizing direct action and people power, the mission of GetEQUAL is to empower the LGBT community and its allies to take action to demand full legal and social equality, and to hold accountable those who stand in the way. For more information on GetEQUAL, please visit
http://www.getequal.org . You can follow GetEQUAL on Twitter at, on Facebook at, or on YouTube at

Chris Geidner (Metro Weekly) reveals that GetEQUAL is already gearing up for a focus on ENDA, "The organization sent an email to its mailing list on Wednesday morning, asking 'Which Democratic leader should we hold accountable next for workplace protections for LGBT people?'"

There is no protection for the people of Iraq and among the groups targeted are LGBT member, presumably straight women, Iraqi Christians and other religious minorities, Sahwa, professors and just about any other group you can think of. Margaret Hassan met several criteria. She was an Irish, British and Iraqi citizen. She worked for CARE International in Iraq. October 19, 2004, Margaret was kidnapped and she was murdered at the start of November.
Peter Cave (Australia's ABC) notes, "Margaret Hassan had lived in Iraq for more than 30 years and had worked there for Care International for 12 years before she was pulled from her car on the way to work in October 2004." Andy Winter (Sky News) reminds, "Her body has never been found and the family have been counting on Jassar al Rawi to reveal where it is so she can be given a proper burial." Only one person has been convicted in the crimes. Michael Jansen (Irish Times) reports, "Hassan's sister Geraldine Fitsimonds Riney said the family had been notified by their Iraqi lawyer that Ali Lutfi Jassar al-Rawi, sentenced to life imprisonment in June 2009, will not appear at his appeal today because he cannot be traced." The Mirror notes, "Ali Lutfi Jassar got life for the 59-year-old's abduction and murder in Iraq 2004." BBC News reports, "An Iraqi court has ordered a search for a man convicted of the 2004 kidnap and murder of British aid worker Margaret Hassan, amid fears he has escaped." Is he in another prison, is he in that prison but 'misfiled' or has he been released? No one's telling the family. Mark Tran (Guardian) quotes another sister of Margaret's, Deirdre Manchanda stating, "Jassar is known to be part of the gang that kidnapped and killed my sister. We have fought for justice for six years only to find that not one member of this gang can be brought to justice.

A poll won't tell you where Margaret Hassan's body is but it can be of some value.
Gary Langer (US" ABC News) notes, "Reports based on a pair of ABC News polls in Afghanistan and Iraq last year were nominated today for an Emmy award for outstanding continuing coverage of a news story." Earlier this week, Stephanie Condon (CBS News) reported on the latest Iraq and Afghanistan Wars poll, "On Iraq, Americans continue to hold more positive views of the war- 55 percent say things are going well for the U.S. there." Are they optimistic because the only one convicted in the murder of Margaret Hassan is nowhere to be found? No, they're 'positive' because the network media abandoned Iraq. And they get crap churned out by bad writers like Dimiter Kenarov.

So what makes a man a man
In these tough times
As druglords buy up the banks
And warlords radiate the oceans
Ecosystems fail
Snakes and snails and puppy tails
Are wagging in the womb
Beneath the trampled moon
Tire skids and teethmarks
What happened to this place?
Lawyers and loan sharks
Are laying America to waste
-- "No Apologies," written by
Joni Mitchell, first appears on her Taming The Tiger

Having bungled his own country's literature repeatedly (though few catch on -- possibly revealing their own ignorance when it comes to world lit) revealing his weak education and pushing centrist programs (and publications) while writing for The Nation, et al,
Dimiter Kenarov shops his latest b.s. to Esquire and it's crap from the get go. The US military is pulling out of Iraq! They are! And Dmiter 'proves' it by focusing on two . . . Oops, Dumb Ass Dimiter, those aren't US soldiers, they aren't US service members. They are DynCorp employees. CorpWatch describes DynCorp as, "The world's premier rent-a-cop business runs the security show in Afghanistan, Iraq, and the US-Mexico border. They also run the coca crop-dusting business in Columbia, and occasional sex trafficking sorties in Bosnia. But what can you expect from a bunch of mercenaries?" Dumb Ass Dimiter thinks readers can expect 'honesty' from DynCorp. What an idiot and it just against demonstrates what I've long said: The Nation magazine needs real standards because they lower their own brand over and over by publishing these jerk-off neoliberals who then trade on the magazine's names to pass off their non-left programs and ideas. So Esquire readers -- Oh, I'm not in the mood, I'm so not in the mood. Closet cases who've yet to buy their first gay porn magazine (as Esquire internal surveys have demonstrated) will be greeted with the bad article and, when not pleasuring themselves to photos of scantily clad men (Oh, look! The designers are using hairy chested men again!), they can be spun into believing that things are good, good and great in Iraq! (For cheesy X-Treme factor, check out Dimiter's single-sentence paragraph that closes the article. It is too poetry what Bo Derek is to acting.) For those in the real world, violence continues in Iraq.

Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad sticky bombing which claimed one life (three people wounded), a Baghdad mortar attack, a Tikrit suicide bomber who took his own life, dropping back to Wednesday for the next events: a Baghdad grenade attack which wounded two police officers, a Baghdad grenade attack which injured three people (including two Iraqi soldiers), a Bahgdad roadside bombing which claimed 2 lives and left two people injured, a Baghdad sticky bombing which wounded one person, a Baghdad sticky bombing which wounded Sahwa commander Salih Mizhir, a Mosul roadside bombing which wounded four people and a Mosul store bombing which injured three, and a Tuesday Baghdad roadside bombing which claimed the life of Judge Hasen Aziz Abdurahman.


Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Wednesday attack on a Baghdad check point in which two police officers and one by-stander were wounded in shootings.

Kevin Lloyd tells Iowa's KTIV that his son, Private First Class Kyle Lloyd, has been injured in a roadside bombing and will "be transferred to a military hospital in Germany."

Still with violence, Saturday
AFP reported that the Turkish government has informed the governments of the US, Iraq and the KRG that it wants it to hand over rebels in nothern Iraq which they number at 248 and one official (unnamed) is quoted stating, "The net is tightening." Press TV added, "The list included senior PKK chiefs such as Murat Karayilan, Cemil Bayik, and Duran Kalkan. The call was made shortly after military and civilian leaders in Turkey voiced growing frustration with Baghdad and the Iraq-based US military over their inaction in confronting the PKK." Umit Enginsoy (Hurriyet Daily News) reported Tuesday that unnamed sources say the US has increased it's "cooperation" with Turkey: "The U.S. and Turkish militaries have been sharing intelligence about the PKK since November 2007, when President George W. Bush agreed to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdo─čan's request in the wake of stepped-up attacks by the outlawed group, which is listed as a terrorist organization by both countries as well as the European Union. Stronger U.S. support for Turkey's fight against the PKK has been reflected in a number of recent developments, sources said Monday, citing increased Turkish access to Iraqi airspace, an agreement to transfer attack helicopters and the ramping up of intelligence sharing." Today's Zayman reports Turkey is attempting to team up with Syria and Iran to fight the PKK: "Preliminary signs of this cooperation have already emerged with Iran capturing and executing 29 PKK members in the past six months. Seventeen PKK militants were extradited to Turkey. Syria launched a military campaign against the group, killing 185 terrorists and arresting 400 others. Some 160 of these will be extradited to Turkey, while Germany returned three PKK members to Turkey very recently in what was a first in that country's history." Today's Zaman also notes a proposal that's meeting with some opposition in Turkey for Turkey to put together a professional army to fight 'terror' [PKK]. That proposed 'professional army' comes just as Aras Coskuntuncel (Hurriyet Daily News) reports that US Ambassador to Turkey (now nominated to be the US Ambassador to Iraq) James Jeffrey has stated that the United States government is looking for "additional ways that we can provide assistance to Turkey, including weapons platforms."

Alsumaria TV reports that Ali Al Dabbagh, apparently speaking on behalf of the State of Law slate of which he is a member, has stated that the next prime minister of Iraq must be a member of the National Alliance (State of Law slate or Iraqi National Alliance). March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. Three months and two days later, still no government. 163 seats are needed to form the executive government (prime minister and council of ministers). When no single slate wins 163 seats (or possibly higher -- 163 is the number today but the Parliament added seats this election and, in four more years, they may add more which could increase the number of seats needed to form the executive government), power-sharing coalitions must be formed with other slates, parties and/or individual candidates. (Eight Parliament seats were awarded, for example, to minority candidates who represent various religious minorities in Iraq.) Ayad Allawi is the head of Iraqiya which won 91 seats in the Parliament making it the biggest seat holder. Second place went to State Of Law which Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister, heads. They won 89 seats. Nouri made a big show of lodging complaints and issuing allegations to distract and delay the certification of the initial results while he formed a power-sharing coalition with third place winner Iraqi National Alliance -- this coalition still does not give them 163 seats. They are claiming they have the right to form the government. It's four months and five days and, in 2005, Iraq took four months and seven days to pick a prime minister. Today it is four months and eight days. Progress? They couldn't even meet the 2005 standard. UPI reports that the stalemate finds most participants objecting to "a second term for" Nouri and quotes Iraqi National Alliance member Ali Shubar stating today, "Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has consumed his full chances in performing his constitutional duties during the last four years and should be replaced by another figure who would be approved by political entities." And Jackson Diehl (Washington Post) reports that Iraq's Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari met with the Washington Post editorial board yesterday and took questions from them and Post reporters. On the White House, he declared, "Their role has not been active, to be honest wit you."

Turning to England,
BBC News reports that Paul Boateng is stating that the Blair cabinet (he was a member of it) "should have seen all the arguments on the legality of the Iraq war." As the Iraq Inquiry has already established then-British Attorney General Peter Goldsmith was of the opinion that -- without a second UN resolution -- a war with Iraq would be illegal. Goldsmith repeatedly advised Blair of that (leading Blair to scribble on one memo, "I just don't understand this"; while his underling scribbled that Blair had "specifically said we did not need further advis [on] this matter"). Days before the illegal war started, Goldsmith was finally pressured into changing his legal opinion. Goldsmith denied being pressured. He said it was more a case of choosing whether or not you wanted to be on the winning side. I believe that's peer pressure when we're speaking of youths. I think it falls under (politely) group-think when you're an adult or (truthfully) cowardice. The cabinet was not informed of any doubts and were only informed that Goldsmith was stating that the Iraq War would be legal. BBC News also notes:Separately, the inquiry published a newly declassified document showing that Treasury officials urged ministers to "step back" from taking a leading military role in post-invasion Iraq.An internal paper - written by senior Treasury official John Dodds - warned that Britain could be "sucked into" costly wider responsibilities if it took on security duties after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein.But the briefing note, sent to then Chancellor Gordon Brown, observed it was unlikely Prime Minister Tony Blair and other ministers would want to "walk away" from a leadership role in Iraq.Peter Mandelson was in Blair's cabinet -- in and out of the cabinet. He resigned twice. His memoirs are due out shortly and sections are being serialized in the Times of London. One section is especially gathering attention. Nicholas Watt (Guardian) reports on Mandelson's assertion that he challenged Blair on going to war with Iraq and Blair replied, "For God's sake, have you been spending all your time with George Galloway?" Mehdi Hasan (New Statesman) adds of that quote:Amazing. Is any more insight needed into what Mandelson refers to as Blair's "tunnel vision" on Iraq? Is any more proof needed that our former prime minister had no intention of debating the rights or wrongs of invading Iraq, not even with close colleagues and friends like Mandelson, but had instead made up his mind long before the March 2003 invasion and refused to seek out alternatives? "As military preparations intensified. those who had reservations of the sort I had raised were lumped together in his mind with anyone who felt he wasn't 100% on board," writes Mandelson. "The distinction between the two became blurred in Tony's mind."On the Iraq Inquiry, Carne Ross testified Monday (see that day's snapshot) and Colum Lynch (Foreign Policy) reports on the testimony including zooming in on Ross' testimony about leaking to Lynch.

In the US,
the Army today released the latest month of suicide data:

The Army released suicide data today for the month of June. Among active duty soldiers, there were 21 potential suicides: one was confirmed as a suicide, and 20 remain under investigation. For May, the Army reported 10 potential suicides among active duty soldiers. Since the release of that report, four have been confirmed as suicides, and six remain under investigation.
During June 2010, among reserve component soldiers who were not on active duty, there were 11 potential suicides: one was confirmed as suicide, and 10 remain under investigation. For May, among that same group, there were 13 total suicides. Of those, two were confirmed as suicides and 11 are pending determination of the manner of death.
For reference, the Army's total for the first half of calendar year 2009 was 88 for active duty and 42 for reserve component soldiers who were not on active duty. For the first half of 2010, the totals were 80 for active duty and 65 for reserve component soldiers who were not on active duty.
"Our suicide prevention efforts must continue to be directed at all members of the Army family -- our soldiers, Department of the Army civilians and families -- during the busy summertime transition period," said Col. Chris Philbrick, director, Army Suicide Prevention Task Force. "The crucial elements are still caring, concern and decisive leadership. There will never be a substitute for a noncommissioned officer, first-line supervisor or friend who knows when a person is suffering and has the moral courage to act and get that individual the help they need. That ability to make a positive difference is the best method to render effective suicide prevention in the Army," Philbrick said.
Soldiers and families in need of crisis assistance can contact Military OneSource or the Defense Center of Excellence (DCoE) for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury Outreach Center. Trained consultants are available from both organizations 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and 365 days a year.
The Military OneSource toll-free number for those residing in the continental United States. is 1-800-342-9647; their Web site address is . Overseas personnel should refer to the Military OneSource Web site for dialing instructions for their specific location.
The Army's comprehensive list of Suicide Prevention Program information is located at .
Army leaders can access current health promotion guidance in newly revised Army Regulation 600-63 (Health Promotion) at: and Army Pamphlet 600-24 (Health Promotion, Risk Reduction and Suicide Prevention) at .
Suicide prevention training resources for Army families can be accessed at (requires Army Knowledge Online access to download materials).
The DCoE Outreach Center can be contacted at 1-866-966-1020, via electronic mail at and at .
Information about the Army's Comprehensive Soldier Fitness Program is located at .
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention:
Suicide Prevention Resource Council:

Yesterday, the US House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations held a hearing on preventing suicides. In addition to
yesterday's snapshot, Marcia reported on it in "House Veterans Affairs suicide hearing," Ann in "Dr. Robert Jesse," and Trina in "It's about respect and self-respect" (Trina's covering the Republican committee member in the hearing who came off looking like a real ass) and yesterday also noted the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee's hearing on claims processing which Mike also reported on in "Senate Veterans Affairs Committee."

Meanwhile US House Rep Loretta Sanchez
weighs in at Politico on the issue of women in the military. This is the opening, use the link:

Imagine you have enlisted in the U.S. armed forces. You've gone through basic training, overcoming the same challenges as your peers. You have proved you have the strength and determination to defend our country, at whatever cost.
You're deployed to Afghanistan, where your first assignment is providing technical support for a combat unit. You are exposed regularly to enemy fire, roadside bombs and other threats. You may even be injured while fulfilling your duties. In and out of combat, you perform bravely and capably.
Unfortunately, your combat service means little -- because you are a woman.
More than 29,000 women are now serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. But official policy prevents them from joining ground units engaged in direct combat or support units that travel to the front lines.

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